Thursday, May 27, 2010

More Hawk Action

After work on Tuesday I returned to the Red-shoul
dered Hawks' nest on Louetta Road and I was rewarded with lots of action.

At first, both chicks were hidden from view. Then one stood up and moved to the edge of the nest.

It didn't take long to find out why.

When one of the parents flew over, both chicks got very excited.

The adult did a couple of low swoops over nearby trees and flew back with a small bird in its talons.

Rather than taking the prey to the nest, the adult carried it over to another tree. Through binoculars the dead bird looked like a young Red-bellied Woodpecker.

The adult then disappeared, presumably to eat its catch in peace.

Ten minutes later, the chicks got excited a
gain when one of the parents landed on the nest.

Unfortunately, it was a false alarm as the adult hadn't brought any food.

After a couple of minutes, the adult lifted off and circled the nest and the surrounding trees.

Once more the hunt didn't take long and this time the adult brought its prey, another small bird, to the nest.

From what I could see, it seemed that the parent t
ore open the prey and started feeding pieces to one of the chicks while the other chick - presumably the more precocious one - was left to fend for itself. It managed quite well.

Its paternal duties fulfilled, the adult flew off to rest in another tree, much to the concern of a pair of Blue Jays. The Jays harassed the hawk for several minutes, constantly flying onto nearby branches and squawking loudly at it.

The hawk seemed unperturbed and was still sitting in the tree when I left.

For a species that is said to prey mainly on small mammals and reptiles, these hawks were clearly no slouches at hunting birds: Two kills in less than ten minutes is remarkably proficient hunting by any standard.


John said...

Since your original post about these hawks, I've taken my wife and kids to see them a number of times. We struck out last weekend as the juveniles were literally laying low and the parents were nowhere to be seen. Given your updates, we'll try again this weekend.

Thank you for pointing out these hawks. We've enjoyed watching the new "neighbors" grow up.

Birdwoman said...

Very interesting observation. I wonder if their hunting tactics change under the pressure of having to feed a family and perhaps the abundance of fledgling birds available. I would think it would be very hard for one of these big hawks to capture an agile adult bird on a twisting and turning flight through the limbs of trees, but a clumsy young bird would certainly be easier prey. In the end, I think birds of prey are opportunists and will take a meal that is most easily available to them.

Jeff said...

Hi, John. Now the chicks are bigger, they're much more visible. Around 4:30-5:00 pm seems to be a particularly active time.

Jeff said...

I think you're right that hawks are opportunistic. A conservationist in California told me that a Red-tailed Hawk cruised along in the slipstream behind her van until it spotted (and zoomed over to kill) a bird perched on a roadside fence.